Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

A hint of regret, Sen. Rockefeller?

I'm sure they'll show it again later on C-SPAN. So if you get a chance, definitely try to catch a bit of the Roberts-Rockefeller press conference this morning announcing the release of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on the Iraq intelligence failure.

Sen. Rockefeller and the rest of the Democrats on the Committee voted unanimously to approve the report that a) places all the blame for the intelligence failures on the CIA, b) specifically -- and quite improbably -- rules out administration pressure as a cause of the problem, and c) avoids any discussion of how or whether the administration manipulated or distorted intelligence community findings to build their case for war.

The very structure of the investigation, as Rockefeller noted, necessarily pushed any discussion of the administration's responsibility for or role in the debacle back until after the November election -- a veritable tour de force of political convenience.

Yet in his comments at the press conference Rockefeller seemed to say that each of these conclusions was either false or so incomplete as to be deeply misleading.

As one of the first reporters to get a question in perceptively asked, why exactly then did they vote for it?

Good question.

The reality is that the CIA is responsive to its president, its master. Its over-responsiveness is one of its key institutional flaws -- not just under this president, but under previous ones too. The CIA really did believe at least that Iraq continued to maintain some stocks of chemical and biological weapons. But its reports, analyses and judgments escalated dramatically in their certainty and scope after President Bush was sworn in to office (significantly, even before 9/11). Those at the CIA with more alarmist views gained favor at the White House, while those who were more skeptical lost it.

Remember in all of this that the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which Sen. Roberts noted was the focus of the Senate report, was hastily cobbled together after the White House had spent a year making its quite alarmist case about Iraq's illicit weapons.

There is no bright line separating the administration's hyping of the threat and manipulation of the evidence and the CIA's own misreading of the evidence and its institutional decision to service the president's needs.

The aim of the administration's defenders -- Senator Roberts, et al. -- is to draw such a bright line (I'm tempted to say 'forge' but let's say 'draw'), thus suggesting the reasoning that because the CIA is guilty, that the White House must be innocent. But that's not true. It is itself yet another deception. They're both guilty -- only of different things.

The CIA is guilty: of aiding and abetting.

This guy just can't catch a break.

First, the CIA sandbags President Bush with a bunch of bogus intelligence about Iraq.

Now it turns out that the military payroll records that could have helped prove that he really did serve his Air National Guard duty in Alabama in 1972 and 1973 were "inadvertently destroyed" in a tragic microfilm accident.

The Times has more on the president's latest brush with cruel fate.

My synopsis of the new Howard <$NoAd$>Fineman article on John Edwards ...

John Edwards is a man in a hurry. Maybe too much of a hurry. No one's ever been in such a hurry except for the other people who've been in a hurry.* And when you're in a hurry you make mistakes. And if Edwards made mistakes you can be sure Karl Rove will find out. And if Rove finds out about Edwards' hidden mistakes it'll be a bad day for Edwards and John Kerry. And now Edwards is in the fight of his life. And it's only a matter of time before Rove lowers the boom on Edwards' mistakes -- if he made any. And if he did, boy will Karl Rove ever find them and lower the boom on them.

That asterisk is a reference to this paragraph, the second of the article ...

Except for Ike, I can’t think of anyone in modern times that entered electoral politics and gained a place on a major-party ticket on such a hurried timetable. Dan Quayle, who’d held office for 12 years when George H.W. Bush picked him, was a grizzled veteran compared with Edwards. Yes, George W. Bush had been governor of Texas for only six years when he won the presidency. But he had run for the House years earlier, and essentially had spent his entire life in the family business of politics. (A helpful reader points out to me that Richard Nixon had a similarly rapid rise. Elected to the House in 1946, he became Ike's running mate in 1952. But an Edwards-Nixon comparison is hardly one that Democrats would like to make.)

So, Bush was in a hurry too. But he once ran for the House between business failures and, besides, for him politics is genetic. And Nixon did it in six too; but he did bad stuff so that doesn't count.

Also of some interest on the Fineman historical acumen watch ...

Wendell L. Willkie: Never ran for public office before presidential nomination; nominated for presidency in 1940. Zero to sixty in zero years.

Thomas E. Dewey: First run for public office (District Attorney) in 1937, New York Governorship in 1942; nominated for the presidency in 1944. Zero to sixty in seven years.

Adlai Stevenson: First run for public office (Illinois Governorship) in 1948; nominated for the presidency in 1952. Zero to sixty in four years.

Spiro Agnew: First run for public office (Chief Executive of Baltimore County) in 1962, Maryland Governorship in 1966; nominated for the vice-presidency in 1968. Zero to sixty in six years.

Geraldine Ferraro: First run for public office (NY Congressional seat) in 1978; nominated for vice-presidency in 1984. Zero to sixty in six years.

Weird, weird, weird ... Late reports out of Afghanistan say that an American named Jonathan Idema was arrested with others for conducting a "self-appointed counterterrorism mission that included abusing eight inmates in a private jail by hanging them by their feet."

Jonathan Idema is apparently the same guy as 'Keith Idema' who was a short-term commando celeb in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 appearing on various TV networks. He also turns up in various jails or suing Steven Spielberg et al. for stealing ideas for a movie script he and others allegedly wrote.

The US military has gone to great lengths to disassociate itself from Idema since he was apparently putting himself forward as some sort of US special forces operator or contractor. A statement from the US military said "the public should be aware that Idema does not represent the American government and we do not employ him."

Indeed, "security sources" tell the BBC that the "US military circulated warning notices about Mr Idema some time ago, describing him as armed and dangerous and accusing him of interfering with military operations in Afghanistan."

But here's what I don't understand: Who runs their own private jail? And why?

I understand that contractors might, for various reasons, be hired to provide security or run detention facilities. But that doesn't seem like what we're talking about here. The article gives the impression that this guy went over there, set up his own private jail so he could go out and arrest locals and hang them by their feet -- some unholy mix of Kurtz and Barney Fife.

I don't get that.

Is there money in setting up your own jail? Kicks perhaps, as we've seen. But certainly there must be enough bad-acts to go around back in the states, right?

It just seems like someone must have been paying this guy to do something, unless it's like a blog where you just set up shop and figure that someday a revenue stream might turn up.

The essence of the matter -- this from the lead <$NoAd$>graf in Douglas Jehl's article in tomorrow's New York Times ...

A bipartisan Senate report to be issued Friday that is highly critical of prewar intelligence on Iraq will sidestep the question of how the Bush administration used that information to make the case for war, Congressional officials said Wednesday. But Democrats are maneuvering to raise the issue in separate statements. Under a deal reached this year between Republicans and Democrats, the Bush administration's role will not be addressed until the Senate Intelligence Committee completes a further stage of its inquiry, but probably not until after the November election. As a result, said the officials, both Democratic and Republican, the committee's initial, unanimous report will focus solely on misjudgments by intelligence agencies, not the White House, in the assessments about Iraq, illicit weapons and Al Qaeda that the administration used as a rationale for the war.

Convenient ...

From TNR's new piece, 'July Surprise'...<$NoAd$>

A third source, an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed tnr that the Pakistanis "have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs [i.e., high-value al Qaida targets] before [the] election is [an] absolute must." What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: "The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: "I'm aware of no such comment." But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Imagine that ...

A couple months ago, in passing, I noted that the Bush administration had been leaning heavily on the Pakistanis to produce some high-value al Qaida bad-guys -- bin Laden? Mullah Omar? Zawahiri? -- at the end of July, nicely timed to knock the Democratic convention seriously off-stride, and certainly, if at all possible, before the November election.

Well, tomorrow The New Republic is going to release a story -- written by recent TPM guest bloggers John Judis and Spencer Ackerman and another colleague -- which provides considerably more evidence and detail about what they've been up to.

I'm told Judis and Ackerman have mulitple Pakistani intelligence sources confirming key details.

If only bagging OBL had been such a priority for them in early '02. But, alas, Iraq called. And priorities are priorities.

A few days ago we noted that Allen Raymond, the guy at the center of the New Hampshire phone-jamming mini-scandal from election 2002, had finally copped a plea in U.S. District Court in Concord.

State Democrats have been pressing for prosecutors to pursue the investigation beyond Raymond, who was paid to do the deed, to the higher-ups who hired him.

The offer of proof in the court documents from Raymond's appearance on June 30th provides several clues. But one that caught my eye is found in this passage.

Here, prosecutor Todd Hinnen tells the court that had Raymond chosen to go to trial, the government would have been able to prove that "in late October 2002, the defendant, Allen Raymond, then the president of Virginia-based political consulting company GOP Marketplace, LLC, received a call from a former colleague who was then an official in a national political organization. The official indicated that he had been approached by an employee of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee with an idea that might give New Hampshire Republican candidates an edge over New Hampshire democratic (sic) candidates in the upcoming election."

Raymond, according to Hinnen's statement to the court, said that he thought the phone jamming scheme this unnamed official went on to describe was doable. And the unnamed official then told him to expect a call from the person at the state GOP.

So who is this unnamed "official in a national political organization" and just what national political organization was this person with?

I assume it wasn't the DNC, right? DSCC? Nah ...